Shareholder Disputes: A Guide for Small to Medium Business Owners in New Zealand

25 September, 2023 | Bret Gower

As a small to medium business owner in New Zealand, you understand the importance of teamwork and collaboration. However, even in the most harmonious partnerships, shareholder disputes can occasionally arise, posing challenges to the smooth functioning of your business. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to equip you with the knowledge and strategies to effectively navigate shareholder disputes, ensuring the continued success of your venture.

Understanding Shareholder Disputes:

Shareholder disputes can occur for various reasons, such as disagreements over company direction, profit distribution, decision-making authority, or the valuation and sale of shares. When left unaddressed, these conflicts can escalate, causing financial losses, damaged relationships, and even legal battles. Therefore, it is crucial to take proactive steps to resolve these issues promptly and amicably.

Steps to Resolve Shareholder Disputes:

Open Communication Channels
Foster an environment where all shareholders feel heard and respected. Encourage open dialogue and regular meetings to address concerns, clarify expectations, and align goals. Clear, transparent communication can help prevent misunderstandings and promote a sense of unity among shareholders.

Review the Company’s Governing Documents
Thoroughly examine the company’s constitution, shareholder agreements, and any other governing documents that outline the rights, obligations, and dispute resolution mechanisms for shareholders. These documents serve as valuable references to navigate through conflicts and ensure that all parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Engage in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods to facilitate constructive discussions between shareholders. Mediation allows an impartial third party to assist in finding common ground and reaching a mutually beneficial resolution, often avoiding the need for costly and time-consuming court proceedings.

Seek Legal Advice
In complex or escalating disputes, consulting with a qualified business lawyer specializing in shareholder disputes can provide invaluable guidance. A legal professional experienced in New Zealand corporate law can help interpret relevant legislation, provide strategic advice, and explore all available options for dispute resolution.

Share Valuation and Buyout Options
In cases where a shareholder wishes to exit the company due to irreconcilable differences, it may be necessary to consider share valuation and buyout arrangements. Accurate valuation ensures fair compensation for the departing shareholder and prevents further disputes arising from financial matters.

Court Proceedings
If all attempts at amicable resolution fail, court proceedings may become necessary. While litigation should be considered a last resort, it can provide a formal and binding resolution when other methods have been exhausted. Engage legal representation early to understand the potential risks, costs, and outcomes associated with court proceedings.


As a small to medium business owner in New Zealand, proactive management of shareholder disputes is vital to the long-term success of your enterprise. By fostering open communication, seeking alternative dispute resolution methods, and involving legal experts when needed, you can minimize the negative impact of conflicts and preserve the harmony and profitability of your business.

Remember, shareholder disputes are not uncommon, and with the right approach, they can be resolved in a fair and efficient manner. Investing in the resolution of these conflicts demonstrates your commitment to the well-being of your business, your shareholders, and the shared vision you all strive to achieve.

In the complex landscape of shareholder disputes, finding the right legal counsel can be the difference between resolution and prolonged conflict. Don’t let shareholder disputes undermine your company’s stability and potential. Reach out to expert commercial lawyer, Bret Gower today and take the first step toward safeguarding your interests, ensuring fair treatment, and getting resolution to your dispute.

Bret Gower
09 837 6893

Do you need assistance with a shareholder dispute?
Contact Bret today to start getting the problem resolved.

email Bret
09 837 6893

About the author

Bret is a key member of the commercial team at Smith and Partners, having joined the firm after a successful career as a design agency owner. Bret’s clients have confidence in him because of his unique combination of down-to-earth communication
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